The Realist’s Guide to Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon

When people move to Los Angeles, they often express joy at the close proximity to so many varied topological options.  You can ski, surf, hike, swim in infinity pools in the Hollywood hills, etc.  They list off these attributes with smiles on their faces and stars in their eyes.  These are the people who are new enough to the city to not have been beaten down by distance and traffic, hazards of an overblown car culture.  Yeah, I’d go surfing if it didn’t take me 45 minutes to travel the 7 miles to Santa Monica.  Yeah, I’d ski all the time if the first decent mountain wasn’t 6 hours away.  I’m not negative, I’m just burnt out.  I grew up here and if I could push my car off a cliff into a beautiful privately owned beach and roll it into a polluted, public owned ocean…trust me, I would.  What I do take advantage of is the hiking as it is conveniently located to my house, it’s cheap, and it’s good for my heart.  At least once a week I make the treacherous, dog shit ridden journey up to the top of my little LA world.

There is much to be aware of before you commit to hiking Runyon.  The following is some advice I have to the newbies.

1.  Heads Up, Seven Up

Never look up for more than a second or so.  Doing otherwise will most certainly result in stepping into the aforementioned dog poo.  I usually make a point to only observe my surroundings and relax at two particular vistas.  I’d like to fully commit to exercise induced euphoria, but I’m too busy concentrating on keeping my shoes clean.  I suggest you do the same.  Save the sightseeing for later.

2.  “Hello” and other Niceties

LA is a big place.  And like other giant, overpopulated cities, people become increasingly protectionist to minimize the likelihood of befriending sociopaths.  Saying “hello” to oncoming hikers is like asking a stranger over for tea time.  How dare you?!  You want me to eat macaroons with you and I don’t even know your name?!  Jesus, man.  Telling someone to “have a good day” is like stripping them of their personal bubble, their private time.  Blood pressure raises and anxiety rides high.  Once you tell one person you like their dog, they think they’re perhaps expected to do the same…to “pass it forward” like that terrible movie with Kevin Spacey.  Can you imagine what that does to someone’s day?  Better to leave well enough alone.

3.  Weird Dog Varietals

This rule is similar to #2.  Engaging in any type of conversation is strictly foreboden, especially if the conversation is about the variety of someone’s strange looking or unique looking mutt.  In particular, if you ever get the chance to hike Runyon around dusk, you will inevitably come across a man walking a dog who looks like a canine burn victim.  It has no hair with the exception of a few sparse strands on his back and its skin is a deep freckled mahogany.  Its tongue pokes out from the left side of its closed mouth.  By far and away, this is the ugliest dog I have ever seen.

One day, a friend’s mother was visiting from out of town and was not briefed on Runyon etiquette.  She brazenly asked what type of dog it was.  Of course the owner was irritated when responding, having been asked this question – I’m assuming – daily.  But to be fair, he’s the one who volunteered to purchase an ugly dog.  I generally believe that asking an owner what type of dog they have after squealing, “Oh my God!  How cute!!!!” is acceptable.  However, I do have a friend that is in possession of one such adorable pooch and apparently it is equally as bothersome.  Better err on the side of caution and avoid uncomfortable interaction altogether.

4.  One…Two…Three!

There are a few places I recommend holding your breath to avoid full on inhalation of toxic feces.  Depending on the wind, I say holding your breath for at least a ten foot radius from any trash can.  This is where the shit that isn’t still on the ground is deposited.  On a blustery day, you’re really just screwed.

5.  We’ll Have a Gay Old Time

To really make the most of your trip, I recommend bringing your gayest best friend.  These are the people who seem to always be having the most intense conversations, invariably littered with “Oh my GAWD”s and “No fucking way”s.  I wish my life was this dramatic.  My only concern is that these twosomes swallow more flies with their mouths perpetually agape.

6.  (Skin) Safety First

Always, always wear sunblock.  The sun’s glaring rays can be pretty intense way up their in the smoggy blue yonder.  And how on earth will you be able to lie about your age if you’ve got premature wrinkles?

I have learned a great many things from my Runyon Canyon excursions, mainly that you have to work hard for any reward in life.  All of the shit you have to put up with – in this case, literally – hopefully ends in a grand payoff.  As I stand looking at the skyline of Los Angeles – the Lego-like rectangles of downtown, the planes skimming the space above and below the cloud line, the marine layer ebbing and flowing from the west, the glittering reflection of the sun off of Hollywood buildings – I think to myself, maybe this city isn’t that bad.  Maybe the people who choose to live here are on to something.  And then I look back down, and continue my hike.